Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 12:00 pm on Monday, March 31, 2014

savvyhousekeeping lemon meringue pie bars

Can’t choose between lemon bars and lemon meringue pie? The solution is to combine them, of course. Lemon meringue pie bars are shortbread crust, a creamy lemon filling, and a layer of meringue on top. They are fantastic. The meringue is so fluffy, it makes the lemon bar seem light and delicate. I highly recommend you try them.

Lemon Meringue Pie Bars



    1 c butter
    1/2 c powdered sugar
    2 c flour
    1/4 tsp salt


    1 1/3 c sugar
    1/2 c cornstarch
    1 3/4 c water
    4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
    2 Tbs butter
    2 Tbs lemon zest
    1/2 c lemon juice
    Dash of salt


    4 egg whites
    1/4 tsp cream of tarter
    1/2 c sugar


To make the crust, blend the butter, powdered sugar, flour, and salt together and press into an oiled 13X9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes until it starts to get golden.

While that cooks, make the lemon filling. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually add the water and stir until smooth. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

In another bowl, beat the egg yolks. Stir about half of the mixture into the egg yolks to temper them. When it is all mixed together, pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the filling. Stir over low heat until the mixture bubbles.

Remove from heat. Stir in butter, zest, and lemon juice. When the crust comes out of the oven, pour the lemon filling over crust.

Now make the meringue. In a mixer, beat the egg whites, cream of tarter, and sugar until peaks form. You want it to be stiff.

Spread the meringue over the filling, being careful not to burst the bubbles. Bake at 350 degrees until meringue is light golden brown, roughly 25 minutes. Make sure to watch that they don’t burn.

Refrigerate 1 hour before serving. Enjoy!

What’s Up Doc? Cocktail

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Friday, March 28, 2014

savvyhousekeeping what's up doc carrot juice ginger gin cocktail

Carrot juice is good for you, full of minerals and vitamins and so on. So why not ruin it by adding alcohol? DIY Cocktails and I thought that sounded like a good idea, so we ground up some carrots and made a cocktail out of their juice.

With ginger liqueur, gin, and a touch of cinnamon on top, this drink is almost like drinking a piece of carrot cake.

savvyhousekeeping what's up doc carrot juice ginger gin cocktail

This could be a good alternative for brunch cocktails like the mimosa and the Bloody Mary.

The recipe:

What’s Up, Doc? Cocktail

(Makes one cocktail)


    1 1/2 oz carrot juice (fresh is ideal, but you can also buy carrot juice at health food stores)
    1 1/2 oz gin
    1/2 oz ginger liqueur
    Cinnamon to top (optional)


Combine carrot juice, gin, and ginger liqueur in a cocktail shaker. Shake thoroughly. Put a few cubes of ice in a glass and strain the drink over the ice. If you want, add a slight touch of cinnamon on top. Enjoy!

Freezer Pizza Dough

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Thursday, March 27, 2014

I’ve mentioned before that homemade pizza is much cheaper than delivered or restaurant pizza. It costs me $2.65 to make a pizza at home compared to paying $25 for delivery. That’s about one-tenth the price of delivered.

Once you’ve got it down, homemade pizza tastes as good, if not better, than most delivered pizza, and it doesn’t even take that long to make… providing you have the dough ready.

Luckily, raw pizza dough is easy to freeze. My system is to make a big batch, divide it into pizza-sized portions, and freeze it. On the day we’re having pizza, all I have to do is pull one of the dough balls out of the freezer and by dinnertime, it’s ready to be made into pizza. Here’s how I do it:

Freezer Pizza Dough:
(Makes enough dough for four 12″ pizzas)


    4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
    2 2/3 c warm water
    7 c all-purpose flour
    1/4 c olive oil
    2 Tbs salt
    1 Tbs sugar


In a mixer, add the yeast and sugar.

Turn the water on your faucet to hot and let it run until you see steam. You want warm-to-hot water to stimulate the yeast.

Once the water it hot, add it to the yeast and sugar. Quickly add the flour on top of the warm water to lock in the heat and continue yeast activation. Add the salt and oil.

Mix the dough for 1 minute on low speed until all the ingredients are blended. Switch to a dough hook and knead the dough for 10 minutes on medium speed. At the end, you should have a compact dough that is smooth and elastic.

Spray a bowl with oil to keep the dough from sticking. Put the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set the bowl in a warm out-of-the way spot until it doubles in size, about an hour and a half.

To divide the dough: Gently remove the dough from the bowl. It’s okay if it deflates a bit. With a cleaver or some other kind of knife, cut the dough into four similar-sized pieces. Weigh the dough to make sure it is the same size–usually each ball weighs about 3/4 of a pound.

Roll each dough section into a ball. Wrap in freezer-safe parchment paper or wax paper to avoid freezer burn. Put in a plastic bag and stick in the freezer.

You now have dough for four pizzas. To defrost, simply take a ball of dough out and let defrost on the counter. But dinnertime, you’ll have nice fresh dough to shape into a pizza.

savvyhousekeeping homemade pizza dough freezer

Hurrah! Pizza about to go into the oven.

Unusual Pizza Toppings

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 12:00 pm on Wednesday, March 26, 2014

savvyhousekeeping corned beef pizza

Like the above Corned Beef Pizza, I like trying unusual toppings on my homemade pizzas. One of the best pizzas I have ever made was one with barbecue ribs. It had rib meat, a combination of mozzarella and smoked cheddar, and a mixed marinara and barbecue sauce. It was awesome.

We have also tried pulled pork, arugula, squash, chorizo, chicken, falafel, and lots of other toppings. All have been good. The trick is to think of the whole pizza as complimenting the flavor of the topping. So with the ribs pizza, I didn’t just dump meat on top, I also incorporated cheese and BBQ sauce that mirrored the flavor of the ribs. This gives the pizza an overall harmony, and harmony = delicious.

Here are some toppings I’m curious about:

Egg Pizza

savvyhousekeeping egg pizza

I have tried egg on a pizza before and found it unnecessary. However Michael Ruhlman’s egg pizza makes me want to give it a second chance. For one thing, he paired the egg with asparagus and bacon, which sounds darn good. Also the egg I had was practically raw, and he cooks his in the oven for a few minutes, which would make a lot of difference in texture. It gives a whole new meaning to breakfast for dinner.

Chard Pizza

savvyhousekeeping chard pizza

I am going to be growing chard this year, so will probably try it on pizza. In particular, I like the looks of In Praise of Leftovers’ broccoli, chard and chévre pizza, pictured above. Wow.

Pear Pizza

savvyhousekeeping pear pizza

Pear sounds like one of those ingredients that could either be awful or genius as a pizza topping. This recipe from the Rustic Kitchen gives me hope that it is the latter. It is pear pizza with red onions and walnut pesto, which sounds kind of awesome.

Corn Pizza

savvyhousekeeping corn pizza

Here’s a picture from the Biggest Menu of “pizza with fresh corn, balsamic marinated roasted red onions, mozzarella, smoked mozzarella topped with fresh chives.” I’m sold. I know that’s good.

Potato Pizza

savvyhousekeeping potato pizza

The LA Times has a recipe for potato pizza. Sounds like the trick is to slice the potatoes very thin to get them to cook. I’m not a fan of white sauce on pizza, so would probably tweak the flavorings to go with marinara instead.

Really, this can go on and on. There’s no end to the deliciousness of pizza, especially when you make your own.

What unusual pizza toppings have worked for you?

Shrinking Violet Cocktail

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:59 am on Friday, March 21, 2014

savvyhousekeeping romantic cocktails weddings valentine's champagne creme de violet

Presenting my newest concoction with DIY Cocktails: The Shrinking Violet Cocktail. It’s so named because this cocktail is likely to shrink rapidly as soon as you taste it.

Oh, and it uses Crème De Violette Liqueur, a brandy-based liqueur with flavoring from violets.

savvyhousekeeping romantic cocktails weddings valentine's champagne creme de violet

I recently tried this liqueur for the first time. It’s sweet with floral notes and goes great with champagne. Not only does this cocktail have a lovely purple hew, it is easy to make. It would be great at a wedding, anniversary, or just to fancy-up a Friday evening.

Shrinking Violet Cocktail


    1 oz Crème De Violette Liqueur
    Violet, pansy, or viola blossom to garnish (optional, but recommended)


Pour the Crème De Violette Liqueur into a champagne flute. Top with champagne. Garnish with flowers. Enjoy!

Make Your Own Italian Soda

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Wednesday, March 19, 2014

savvyhousekeeping homemade italian strawberry soda

A friend told me that she’d been making her own sodas lately. When I inquired further, I discovered that she had been making simple syrups from fruit and combining them with club soda or sparkling water. She said it was a great way to use up oldish fruit.

When I was in high school, I was obsessed with Italian sodas, which are a flavored syrup combined with carbonated water, exactly what my friend was doing at home. So we decided to give it a try with some strawberries that I had recently picked from my garden. Here’s how it went down:

Italian Soda


    2 c fruit, in this case strawberries
    1 c water
    3/4 c sugar (if you like it sweeter and less fruity, use 1 cup sugar instead)
    Club soda or sparkling water


First, make the syrup. Combine the sugar, water, and fruit in a pot and bring to a boil.

savvyhousekeeping homemade italian strawberry soda

Let it boil until all the sugar is dissolved and the fruit releases its flavor into the water, about 5-10 minutes. Strain the syrup from the fruit.

The resulting syrup was a bright red and very pretty. We ended up with about 2 cups of it.

savvyhousekeeping homemade italian strawberry soda

Then I filled a glass with sparkling water, about 12 oz, and added the syrup until it tasted right. It ended up taking quite a bit of syrup to get the flavor where I wanted it, about 8 Tbs, or 1/2 cup.

The soda was delicious and refreshing. The only thing I would do differently is add ice next time.

Since I learned how to properly store simple syrup, I have had a couple of other Italian sodas with the remaining syrup since then. My friend and I talked about other sodas you could make–pineapple, tangerine, lavender and honey. The possibilities are endless.

And the leftover fruit that we strained out of the syrup? We put it to good use by putting it over some homemade strawberry ice cream.

savvyhousekeeping homemade italian strawberry soda

Cost: Fruit: free from the garden; Sparkling water: $.45 (could be cheaper if you shopped around for a sale); Sugar: $.10; Water: free.
Total Cost of Drink: $.55

A can of Pepsi is cheaper if you buy it on sale, but it doesn’t taste as good.

Irish Spring Cocktail

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Monday, March 17, 2014

savvyhousekeeping green cocktail st patrick's day irish spring gin celery mint lime

You know, sometimes DIY Cocktails and I have trouble naming these cocktails we come up with. In this case, the possible names included:

Patty McCelery
The Celery VirGIN
Cell Block
Luck O’ The Celery
Celery McGinington

Irish Spring, however, sounded about perfect for this little green cocktail, which is just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a mixture of gin, lime, mint, and celery juice.

savvyhousekeeping green cocktail st patrick's day irish spring gin celery mint lime

The celery juice may sound like a surprising addition, but trust me, it’s good.

Irish Spring Cocktail

(makes one cocktail)


    1 oz celery juice from 1-2 ribs of celery
    1 1/2 oz gin
    1/2 oz simple syrup
    1/2 oz lime juice
    5-6 mint leaves


Grate the celery into a bowl. Then put the celery in a sieve over the bowl and mash until you get all the juice out of the celery. (You can also do this in a blender or juicer.)

Juice 2-3 limes for fresh lime juice.

Muddle the mint, simple syrup, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Add in the celery juice, gin, and ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with mint. Cheers!

Pear Sake Martini

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Thursday, March 13, 2014

My latest drink I made with DIY Cocktails is a play on a martini made with sake, fresh pear juice, and dry vermouth.

If you dislike strong cocktails, this is the drink for you. Sake adds a light, delicate flavor to the drink with no trace of the “burning” some people dislike about liquor. The average sake has about 9-16% alcohol while most liquors have about 40% alcohol, so using sake in a drink is a way to have a cocktail without worrying too much about getting drunk.

We used a juicer to make the fresh pear juice. If you don’t have a juicer, you can use a blender or food processor instead. Just cut the pear up, remove the core and seeds, and blend until liquefied. Then strain the juice from the pulp. You could use pear juice from the store, too.

Here’s the recipe:

Pear Sake Martini

makes one cocktail


    1 1/2 oz sake
    1 1/2 oz pear juice (roughly the juice of half a pear)
    1/4 oz dry vermouth
    Pear slice for garnish (optional)


In a cocktail shaker, combine the sake, pear juice, and dry vermouth. Shake thoroughly with ice. Strain the drink into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of pear, if desired. Enjoy!

How To Make Apple Cider

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Wednesday, March 12, 2014

We tried making apple cider and it was easy. All it took was putting the apple juice in a big bottle with brown sugar and yeast, letting it ferment, and then bottling it. It made a light, delicious drink with an alcohol content of around 6%.

savvyhousekeeping homemade apple cider

We ended up with 42 bottles of cider. The total cost, not counting the equipment–which we reuse for all beer making–was $16.78, or $.40 a bottle. Here’s how we did it.

How To Make Apple Cider


    5 gallon carboy/food-safe bucket for fermentation
    1 airlock
    A second bucket (any sanitized bucket will do)
    Racking cane
    Siphoning hose (a clear vinyl tube like they have at the hardware store)
    Bottling wand
    Bottles (My husband got them for free by asking people at work to save bottles for him)
    Bottle caps


    4 gallons apple juice + 48 oz of apple juice for bottling ($15.50 at Costco. Be sure that your juice doesn’t have any preservatives apart from citric acid as it could prevent fermentation.)
    1/2 lb brown sugar ($.50)
    4 g Epernay II wine yeast (10 g vial $1.95—this can be purchased in a beer store or online.)


1. Clean and sanitize all the equipment. I’m assuming you know how to do this—just keep in mind that it’s essential that everything that touches the cider be sanitized (including your hands).

2. Now, you need to put all the apple juice and brown sugar into the fermenter (bucket or carboy), but first we need to dissolve the brown sugar. To do this, we shook it with the cider before putting it in the fermenter. Our apple juice came in four one-gallon bottles for a total of four gallons. We took the first bottle of juice and poured half of it into the fermenter. Then we added about a quarter of the brown sugar into the half-empty apple juice bottle. We put the cap on and shook vigorously until all the sugar was dissolved. Then we transferred the juice/sugar into the fermenter and repeated with the other three bottles until everything was in the fermenter.

After that, add the 4 grams of yeast to the fermenter.

You have just made the apple cider. Really, that’s all the heavy lifting you’ll have to do until bottling.

savvyhousekeeping making apple cider
(Unfermented apple cider in the carboy)

3. Now it’s time to ferment. Put the airlock on the cider and store it somewhere it can stay at around 68-72 F. We used the guest bathroom. After a day or so, the yeast will start working and bubbles will rise to the surface of the cider. The airlock should start bubbling as well.

After 3 weeks, the fermentation should be complete. The yeast should have settled at the bottom of the fermenter and the cider will be as clear as the original juice again. The cider is ready to be bottled.

4. If you want the cider carbonated, you need to add some sugar to wake up the yeast again. While you could use 4 oz of normal sugar, we used more apple juice since juice has sugar in it. It turns out that 48 oz of apple juice contains 4 oz of sugar.

To add the apple juice to the cider, first pour the juice into your second bucket.

savvyhousekeeping making apple cider
(Apple juice being added to the bucket)

Using a racking cane and siphoning hose, siphon all the cider out of the fermenter into the bucket to mix in the juice. The mixture should be stirred up enough just by the siphoning to distribute the sugar evenly.

(Cider being siphoned from the fermenter into a bucket containing the apple juice)

5. Now we bottle. First, sanitize all the bottles. Either fill each bottle with a sanitizer solution and then dump it out or use the sanitize option on your dishwasher. Just don’t use any soap because it will leave film in the bottles.

savvyhousekeeping making apple cider
(Sanitized bottles fresh from the dishwasher)

Bottling is messy, so we use a dishwasher to catch spills. Put the bucket above the dishwasher and using the racking cane and siphoning hose again, start filling each bottle with the cider.

savvyhousekeeping making apple cider
(Apple cider being bottled with a siphoning hose)

6. Cap each bottle using a bottle cap and a capper.

savvyhousekeeping making apple cider
(Apple cider being capped)

7. Once all of the bottles have been filled and capped, store them at room temperature for another 2-3 weeks. After a week you might want to take one bottle, chill it, and gauge how the carbonation is going. It took us 2 weeks to have fully carbonated apple cider.

savvyhousekeeping making apple cider

The end result will be perfect on hot afternoons all summer long.

How To Make Duck Confit

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Monday, March 10, 2014

Duck confit is a French dish where duck is cured in salt and poached in fat. It has long been one of my favorite dishes, so I decided to make it myself.

I adapted a recipe from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. It took nine days to make. The end result was delicious.

I will admit, though, that preserving meat in fat can be a gross. After making my own duck confit, I’m now very aware of just how much fat goes into making the meat taste so good.

Let’s just say this isn’t exactly diet food.

savvyhousekeeping how to make duck confit
(The black spot in the fat is a clove.)

Last December, I cooked a goose for the first time. After dinner, I saved the fat from the goose and used that for the duck confit. If you don’t want to go to that much trouble, you can look into getting fat from your local butcher.

I also butchered a duck for this recipe. I’m not going to tell you how to do that part because it’s annoying. If this is your first time making duck confit, I recommend buying a duck that has already been cut up for you. But if you want to butcher the duck yourself, here’s a how-to.

The recipe:

Duck Confit

(Serves 3)


    4 duck legs, fat removed, weighing about 2 1/2 pounds
    1 1/2 Tbs kosher salt
    2 cloves
    3 black peppercorns
    2 cloves garlic, sliced
    2 bay leaves
    4 cups goose or duck fat


Remove the fat from the duck by carefully pulling it off the muscle. It comes up pretty easily with a little bit of slicing here and there. There’s a membrane underneath the fat that has to be cut away too. Save the fat for later. (I stuck it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer.)

Cover the duck legs with salt and put them in a bowl.

savvyhousekeeping how to make duck confit

Crush the peppercorns and cloves and sprinkle them over the duck. Break up the bay leaves, slice the garlic, and press them into each duck leg. Cover and put in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, rinse the salt from the duck. Pat dry.

Prepare the fat to put over the duck. In this case, I took the goose fat out of the freezer and let it sit on the counter until it became room temperature and was soft enough to be poured. If you are using the fat from the duck itself, you will have to render it. It’s not hard–here’s how.

Now it’s time to poach the duck. This takes 6-10 hours, so start in the morning. Lay your duck in a baking pan or Dutch oven. Pour the fat over the duck so that it is completely covered. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (200 degrees also works) and stick the duck in.

Let the duck stay in the oven all day, until the meat is tender and the fat becomes clear. Your house will smell wonderful. When it comes out of the oven, it looks like this:

savvyhousekeeping how to make duck confit

So now you have poached the duck in fat, and you could put it in the fridge overnight and eat it the next day. But I understand that most chefs let the duck confit sit in the fat for at least a week so that all the flavors gel, so that is what I did. Once the duck confit cooled, I covered it with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge for a week.

It was rather alarming at this stage, since every time I opened the refrigerator, I was confronted with a block of fat:

savvyhousekeeping how to make duck confit
(Again, the black spots are cloves.)

A week later, it’s finally time to eat the duck confit. A few hours before serving, remove the duck from the fridge and sit on the counter so that the fat softens.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While it is pre-heating, get out a frying pan and gently fry the outside of the duck to get a crispy surface. Be careful, the meat is very tender. You may have to use a little olive oil here, believe it or not.

Transfer the duck to a baking pan and cook in the oven for 15 minutes until warmed through.

That’s it!

savvyhousekeeping how to make duck confit

I’m glad I did this. It tasted great and I learned a lot. The only hard part was cutting up the duck, which I could have avoided by buying them pre-cut. Lesson learned.

Next on the list: pork confit.

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